Weddings: outside of the picture-perfect day that is typically presented in television and movies, most of us understand the untold anxiety placed upon a bride and groom when families and friends amalgamate. Granted, some films depict this phenomenon accurately, but never solely focused on said anxieties properly. The Wedding Party is an independent feature written and directed by Thane Economou, and it showcases these anxieties up front and films them brilliantly, as the entire film is shot in one continuous take.
The story revolves around the complexities and confusion among the members of Paul and Margene’s wedding party. Paul constantly disappears throughout the night, Margene’s sister downs seven Xanax, Paul’s half-brother can’t let go of the bride’s ring, and the ones left over are whirling in a storm of anger and sex. However, two of the party members, Jim and Alex, come to represent the true “main characters” of the film. When Margene’s sister doses out of her duties as the wedding planner, Alex must take over, recruiting Jim to help. As the night progresses, the two reignite the crush they had in high school and navigate through their own anxieties and doubts.
Now, I am a sucker for long takes: they are my favorite element of the cinematic arts. William Kamp III, the film’s cinematographer, managed to capture each moment so fluidly. What struck me as the most fascinating, however, was the way Kamp managed to capture the aesthetic of an actual wedding video in certain portions of the film. Combining that aesthetic with the weaving long take had to have been very hard to achieve. Even though Kamp was manning the camera, the directorial choice to film the wedding as a single take was incredibly smart, as the aforementioned anxieties and tensions people experience during a wedding never come to a rest. Because the camera is constantly in motion, following one conflict to an entirely new conflict without so much as a cut creates added anxiety within the audience. We are more vested in each conflict simply because the camera will not allow our eyes to rest.
The most significant critique I can give is that the story felt underwhelming. From the start, the film felt like The Rules of the Game (1939) or Thomas Vinterberg’s The Celebration (1998). While it is impressive that this film evoked that feeling in me, it made me expect a little more from the writing in this film. Not that the writing was terrible, but some of the conflicts felt rushed, incomplete, or just not interesting. Although the cinematography does indeed make the anxieties feel much worse to an audience, a more intense story could have blown me away. The film is a wonderful experiment in the combination of cinematography and story, but more intense conflicts throughout would have earned this film the title of “one of my favorites.”
Final words: get your hands on this film and watch it. The acting is fantastic, which a huge plus. It has drama and humor, but the real treat is watching the camera navigate throughout the reception. Each character has a satisfactory arc, even if some of their conflicts don’t elicit the same amount of interest of the previous one. With every element combined into a single package, it is hard not to enjoy this film. It draws inspiration from some of the greatest films I have seen, but manages to create its own memorable presence in my mind.